Every Week It's Wibbley-Wobbley Timey-Wimey Pookie-Reviewery...

Friday, 9 August 2019

Ice Cool School 2

Launched at the UK Games Expo 2016, Ice Cool was not just a big hit, it would go on to win the 2016 UK Games Expo Best Children’s Game Winner and the Kinderspiel des Jahres—the children’s game of the year award, similar to the Spiel des Jahres—in 2017. It was the biggest, coolest penguin flipping, fish grabbing, trick shot-taking game on ice ever, and that in a field of flicking games like Rampage or Terror in Meeple City and Flick ‘em Up! Now all that changes, with publisher Brain Games returning to UK Games Expo in 2019 to release Ice Cool 2. With Ice Cool 2, the flicking game goes back to school again, all the way down to the South Pole, and lets the players—or penguins—run round and jump about it as they race to grab fish before the hall monitor can grab them and steal their ID Cards! Played over multiple lunchtimes, the penguin player who gets the most fish and the most Hall Passes is the winner.

Ice Cool 2 is both a standalone game and an expansion to the original Ice Cool. As a standalone game, it is designed for between two and four players, aged six plus, plays very much like Ice Cool, and shares many similarities. The first of these is the ‘Box-In-A-Box’ set-up. Open up the box and nested inside are several smaller box lids. These together with the box base that Ice Cool comes are laid out and clipped together—using the tan fish (plastic in Ice Cool 2 rather than wooden as in Ice Cool)—to form the school and its rooms. Between each of the rooms there are doors and over some of these doors are clipped the fish that the penguin pupils are after.

The second is the penguins themselves. The stars of Ice Cool and thus Ice Cool 2, they are made of plastic, each with a round bottom with a ball bearing weight inside it. A bit like a Weeble. What this means is that when flicked, a penguin will roll. Of course a penguin can roll straight, but flick it from behind on the right hand side and a penguin will curve to the right and flick it from behind on the left hand side and a penguin will curve to the left. Which means that it can go round corners! Yet if you flick a penguin in the head, you can get him to jump, even jump over the walls of the school!

Ice Cool is played in rounds, one round per penguin. In each round one penguin is the Hall Monitor. His job is to catch the other penguins who are trying to get through the doors with the fish and so claim the fish. When a penguin goes through a door with a fish of his colour, he grabs that fish and a Victory Point card. If the Hall Monitor touches another penguin, then he confiscates that penguin’s I.D. Card. Everyone continues flicking their penguins around the school until either one penguin has grabbed all of his fish from over the appropriate doors or the Hall Monitor has confiscated all of the other penguins’ I.D. Cards. At the end of the round, the Hall Monitor receives a Victory Card for each I.D. Card he confiscated. Then the I.D. Cards are handed back and another round begins with play continuing until everyone has been the Hall Monitor and the game ends. The penguin with the most Victory Points wins the game.

The Victory Point cards are worth one, two, or three points. A penguin—whether a penguin or the Hall Monitor—can use pairs of Victory Cards of the same value to activate special abilities. Pairs with a value of one and marked with an image of skates have two uses. The first is to allow a penguin to have another go at the end of his turn, and as long as he has pairs of cards marked with a one and skates, he can keep having another go at the end of his turn. The second is for the penguin—but not the Hall Monitor—can attempt a task. There are three types of task—jump over a wall into another room, pass through two doors in a single flick, or bounce off one wall and pass through one or more doors. Successfully completely a task and a penguin can draw another Victory card. A penguin can use  pairs of cards marked with a one and skates to do either, but not both of these actions. Pairs of Victory cards marked with a two can also be used to move a fish of any colour from atop one door to atop another. The only limit is that it cannot be moved to a door adjacent to a room in which there is a penguin of a matching colour.

The use of the Victory cards not only score a penguin points for the end of the game, but as pairs, they add a tactical element to play. Not just taking another turn, but also taking trick shots to score more Victory cards and to move his rival’s fish, forcing his rival to change plans. Now for younger players, these tactical elements in Ice Cool and Ice Cool 2, may well be too complex or too adversarial, but that is very much down to the judgement of the adults playing with the younger players. This reflects nicely how Ice Cool and Ice Cool 2 can be adjusted to suit both older and younger players, because strip away those tactical aspects and what you have is a flicking game that anyone can play because it relies upon personal skill.

Just as with Ice Cool, Ice Cool 2 is an attractive game with physical presence. It looks great on the table and it really is simple to play. The rules themselves are easy to grasp, but they are not written for the young audience that the game is aimed at. So an adult will need to read through them and teach them to younger players, but they are simple enough to both teach and play. Having done, what players young and old will find is that Ice Cool is fun. The design of the penguins means that skill and trick shots can be taken to get the rolling fish fiends to curve and jump to grab the fish and avoid the Hall Monitor. This physical element means that young and old can play on a level ice field and younger players have a good chance of beating adults. Both of course can get better and better with practice.

As a standalone game, adults will enjoy Ice Cool 2 as much as children, despite it being a children’s game. It provides the same fun as Ice Cool, whilst adding the tactical element, and if you were choosing between purchasing Ice Cool and Ice Cool 2, then Ice Cool 2 would be the better choice. That though, is as a standalone, for Ice Cool 2 shares the same issue as Ice Cool and that there is just the one layout that can be created using its ‘Box-In-A-Box’ set-up. It would have been fun if the game allowed for a variety of school layouts to be created. As standalone games, neither Ice Cool or Ice Cool 2 allow for that option. Ice Cool 2, as an expansion to Ice Cool 2 though…

Included in Ice Cool 2 is a second rulebook, ‘Ice Cool + Ice Cool 2’. When played on their own, both games are designed for between two and four players, but combined, they allow up to eight penguins to flick riot around the school to get fish. This is made possible because the penguins in Ice Cool 2 are of a different colour to those in Ice Cool. They allow the boxes of ‘Box-In-A-Box’ set-up of Ice Cool to be combined with the boxes of ‘Box-In-A-Box’ set-up of Ice Cool 2 to allow different layouts and even sliding boxes which move every turn! They add a new game type, ‘Race Game Mode’, which is really a team mode, with penguins dividing into teams of two to race round the school and collect all of their fish. Any of the layouts suggested in the ‘Ice Cool + Ice Cool 2’ rulebook can be used in ‘Race Game Mode’. (An alternative might be for each player controlling two penguins as a team so that even with just three or four players, they get to play with everything from both Ice Cool and Ice Cool 2.)

Ice Cool is heaps of fun, a game that can be enjoyed by young and old, making it a terrific family game. Ice Cool 2 is heaps of fun, a game that can be enjoyed by young and old, making it a terrific family game. Ice Cool and Ice Cool 2 is together better, providing a bigger game for more penguins and more fun.

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